Изображения страниц

He is a

duces into his verses. He does not as the greatest naine in our poetry. Depend invent, he observes; he does not cre

upon it, the rest are barbarians. ate, he transcribes. His copy is darkly hand, and a Turkish Mosque and all sorts of

Greek Temple, with a Gothic Cathedral on one exaggerated, but it is a copy: “I could fantastic pagodas and conventicles about him. not write upon any thing,” says he, You may call Shakspeare and Milton pyra: ** without some personal experience mids, but I prefer the Temple of Theseus of the and foundation." We will find in his

Parthenon to a mountain of burnt brickwcrk.

... The grand distinction of the underforma letters and note-books, almost feature of the new school of poets is their vulgarity, for feature, the most striking of his de- By this I do not mean they are coarse, but scriptions. The capture of Ismail, the

shabby-genteel." shipwreck of Don Juan, are, almost And he presently wrote two letters word for word, like two accounts of it with incomparable vivacity and spirit in prose. If none but cockneys could to defend Pope against the scorn o. attribute to him the crimes of his he- modern writers. These writers, acroes, none but blind men could fail to cording to him, have spoiled the public see in him the sentiments of his char- taste. The only ones who were worth acters. This is so true, that he has any thing_Crabbe, Campbell, Rogers not created more than one. Childe --imitate the style of Pope. A few Harold, Lara, the Giaour, the Corsair, others had talent; but, take them all Manfred, Sardanapalus, Cain, Tasso, together, those who had come last had Dante, and the rest, are always the perverted literature : they did not know same-one man represented under va- their own language ; their expressions rious costumes, in several lands, with are only approximate, above or below different expressions ; but just as the true tone, forced or dull. He ran. painters do, when, by change of gar- ges himself amongst the corrupters, † ments, decorations, and attitudes, they and we soon see that this theory is not draw fifty portraits from the same an invention, springing from bad temmodel. He meditated too much upon per and polemics;

he returns to it. himself to be enamored of any thing In his two first attempts-Hours of else. The habitual sternness of his Idleness, English Bards and Scotch will prevented his mind from being Reviewers-he tried to follow it up. flexible ;

his force, always concentrated Later, and in almost all his works, we for effort and bent upon strife, shut find its effect. He recommends and him up in self-contemplation, and re- practises the rule of unity in tragedy. duced him never to make a poem, save He loves oratorical form, symmetrical of his own heart.

phrase, condensed style. He likes to What style would he adopt? With plead his passions. Sheridan tried to these concentrated and tragic senti- induce Byron to devote himself to eloments he had a classical mind. By quence; and the vigor, piercing logic, the strangest mixture, the books, which wonderful vivacity, close argument of he preferred, were at once the most his prose, prove that he would have violent or the most proper, the Bible taken the first rank amongst pam. above all: "I am a great reader and phleteers. If he attains to it amongst admirer of those books (the Bible), and the poets, it is partly due to his classihad read them through and through cal system. This oratorical form, in before I was eight years old ; that is to which Pope compresses his thought say, the Old Testament, for the New like La Bruyère, magnifies the forco struck me as a task, but the other as a and swing of vehement ideas; like a

Observe this word: he narrow and straight canal, it coller's did not relish the tender and self-deny- and dashes them in their right dire ing mysticism of the gospel, but the tion; there is then nothing which their cruel sternness and lyrical outcries of impetus does not carry away; and it is the Hebrews. ' Next to the Bible he thus Lord Byron from the first, in the loved Pope, the most correct and for- * Ibid. 150, Ravenna, May 3, 1821. mal of men:

"All the styles of the day are bombastic. "As to Pope, I have always regarded him through negligence to corrupt the language."

I don't except my own; no one has done more

See his English Bares and Scotdi ko • Moore, Byron's Works; Life, V. 365. uwers.

pleasure." **


face of hostile criticisms, and over “ Yet must I think less wildly:- I have though calous reputations, has made his


Too long and darkly, till my brain became, to the public.

In its own eddy, boiling and o'erwrought,

A whirling gulf of phantasy and flame: Thus Childe Harold made its way. And thus, untaught in ycuth my heart te At the first onset every man who read tame, it was agitated. It was more than an

My springs of life were poison'd. 'Tis too

late! author who spoke; it was a man.


Yet am I changed: though still enough the spite of his denial, the author was identified with his hero: he calumni- In strength to bear what time canno abate, ated himself, but still it was himself And feed on bitter fruits without accusing

Fate.. whom he portrayed. He was recognized in that young voluptuous and dis

But soon he knew himself the most unfit

Of men to herd with Max; with whom he gusted man, ready to weep amidst his

held orgies, who

Little in common; untaught to submit

His thoughts to others, though his soul wa “ Sore sick at heart,

quell'd And from his fellow bacchanals would flee;

In youth by his own thoughts ; still uncomr 'Tis said, at times the sullen tear would start,

pell’d, But Pride congeal'd the drop within his ce : He would not yield dominion of his mind A part he stalk'd in joyless reverie,

To spirits against whom his own rebelld; And from his native land resolved to go,

Proud though in desolation, which could find, And visit scorching climes beyond the sea A life within itself, to breathe without man. With pleasure drugg'd, he almost long'd for

kind. woe." +

Like the Chaldean, he could watch the stars Fleeing from his native land, he carried, Till he had peopled them with beings bright amongst the splendors and cheerfulness As their own beams; and earth, and earth

born jars, of the south, his unwearying persecu- And human frailties, were forgotten quite : tor, “demon thought,” implacable be- Could he have kept his spirit to that fight hind him. The scenery was recog.

He had been happy ; but this clay will sink nized : it had been copied on the spot.

Its spark immortal, envying it the light And what was the whole book but a That keeps us from yon heaven which woos us

To which it mounts, as if to break the link diary of travel? He said in it what he to its brink. had seen and thought. What poetic

But in Man's dwellings he became a thing fiution is so valuable as genuine sensa- Restless and worn, and stem and wearisome, tun? What is more penetrating than Droop'd as a wild-born falcon with clipt

wing, confidence, voluntary or involuntary?

To whom the boundless air alone were bome : Truly, every word here expressed an

Then came his fit again, which to o'ercome, emotion of eye or heart :

As eagerly the barr d-up bird will beat

His breast and beak against his wiry dome "The tender azure of the unrufiled deep. Till the blood tinge his plumage, so the heat

The mountain-moss by scorching skies im Of this impeded soul would through his bosom The orange tints that gild the greenest

Such are the sentiments wherewith bough."

he surveyed nature and history, not to All these beauties, calm or imposing, comprehend them and forget himself he had enjoyed, and sometimes suf before them, but to seek in them and fered through them; and hence we see impress upon them the image of his them through his verse. Whatever he own passions. He does not leave ob touched, he made palpitate and live ;jects to speak of themselves, but forces because, when he saw it, his heart had them to answer him. Amidst their beaten and he had lived. He himself, peace, he is only occupied by his own a little later, quitting the mask of Har emotion. He attunes them to his soul, old, took up the parable in his own and compels them to repeat vis own name; and who is not touched by an cries. All is inflated here, as in himavowal so passionate and complete? self; the vast strophe rolls along, car.

rying in its overflowing bed the flood * Thirty thousand copies of the Corsair were of vehement ideas ; declamation unsold in one day,

folds itself, pompous, and at times artiByron's Worko, viii.; Childe Harold ficial (it was his first work), but potent, Pilgrimage, c. i. 6. Childe Harold's Plgrimage, c. i. 19.

. Ibid. c. iii. Til


[ocr errors]

and so often sublime that the rhetorical And all things weigh'd in custom's falsest rubbish, which he yet preserved, dis

scale; appeared under the afflux of splendors,

Opinion an omnipotence, whose veil

Mantles the earth with darkness, until right with which it is loaded. Wordsworth, And wrong are accidents, and men grow pale Walter Scott, by the side of this prod. Lest their own judgments should become too igality of accumulated splendors,


And their free thoughts be crimes, and earth seemed poor and dull; never since have too much light. Æschylus was seen such a tragic pomp; and men followed with a sort

And thus they plod in sluggish misery,

Rotting from sire to son, and age to age, of pang, the train of gigantic figures, Proud of their trampled nature, and so dia, whom he brought in mournful ranks Bequeathing their hereditary rage before their eyes, from the far past :

To the new race of inborn slaves, who wage

War for their chains, and rather than be I stood in Venice, on the Bridge of Sighs ;

free, A palace and a prison on each hand :

Blecd gladiator-like and still engage I saw from out the wave her structures rise Withis the same arena where they see As from the stroke of the enchanter's wand : Their fellows fall before, like leaves of the A thousand years, their cloudy wings expand

same tree.” Around me, and a dying Glory smiles O’er the far times, when many a subject land

Has ever style better expressed a Look'd to the winged Lion's marble piles, soul? It is seen here laboring and exWhere Venice sate in state, throned on her bun- panding. Long and stormily the ideas dred isles!

boiled within this soul like bars of She looks a sea Cybele, fresh from ocean, metal hcaped in the furnace. They Rising with her tiara of proud towers melted there before the strain of the At airy distance, with majestic motion, A ruler of the waters and their powers:

intense heat; they mingled therein And such she was!—her daughters had their their heated mass amidst convulsions dowers

and explosions, and then at last the From spoils of nations, and the exhaustless door is opened; a slow stream of fire

East Pourd in her lap all gems in sparkling descends into the trough prepared be. showers.

forehand, heating the circumambient In purple was she robed, and of her feast

air, and its glittering hues scorch the Monarchs partook, and deem'd their dignity increased.

eyes which persist in looking upon it. Lo! where the Giant the mountain

His blood-red tresses deep'ning in the sun,
With death-shot glowing in his fiery hands,

Description and monologue did not And eye that scorcheth all it glares upor;

suffice Byron; and he needed, to ex: Restless it rolls, now fix'd and now anou press his ideas, events and actions. Flashing afar,-and at his iron feet Destruction cowers, to mark what deeds are of the soul; only actions display and

Only events try the force and elasticity done; For on this morn three potent nations meet, regulate this force and elasticity. To shed before his shrine the blood he deems Amidst events he sought for the most

powerful, amidst actions the strongest ; By Heaven! it is a splendid sight to sec and we see appear successively The (For one who hath no friend, no brother Bride of Abydos, The Giaour, The Cor.

there) Their rival scarfs of mix'd embroidery,.

sair, Lara, Parisina, The Siege of Cor. Their various arms that glitter in the air!

inth, Mazeppa, and The Prisoner of What gallant war-hounds rouse them from Chillon. And gnash their fangs, loud yelling for the have grown dull in forty years. In

I know that these sparkling poems prey! All join the chase, but few the triumph share ; their necklace of Oriental pearls have

The Grave shall bear the chiefest prize away, been discovered beads of glass; and And Havoc scarce for joy can number their Byron, who only half loved them, array. ...

judged better than his judges.

Yet he What from this barren being do we reap ?

judged amiss; those which he preOur senses narrow, and our reason frail, Life short, and truth a gem which loves the ferred are the most false. His Corsair deep,

is marred by classic elegancies: the

pirates' song at the beginning is no * Childo Harold's

Pilgrimage, c. iv. i and 3. + Ibid. c. i. 17 and 40.

Ibid. c. iv. 93 and 96


[ocr errors]

most sweet.

their lair,

truer than a chorus at the Italian | brilliant colors. We are all of the Opera; his scamps propound philo- people, as regards emotion; and the sophical antitheses as balanced as those great lady, like the waiting woman, of Pope. A hundred times ambition, sheds tears, without cavilling with the glory, envy, despair, and the other author as to the means he uses. abstract personages, whose images in And yet, after all, there is a great the time of the first Empire the French deal of truth in Byron's poems. No; used to set up on their drawing-room this man is not a mere arranger of clocks, break in amidst living pas- effects or an inventor of phrases. He sions. The noblest passages are dis- has lived amidst the spectacles he de figured by pedantic apostrophes, and scribed; he has experienced the emo iba pretentious poetic diction sets up tions he relates. He has been in the its threadbare frippery and conven- tent of Ali Pacha, and relished the tional ornaments. | Far worse, he strong savor of ocean adventure and studies effect and follows the fashion. savage manners.

He has been a score Melodramatic strings pull his charac of times near death,-in the Morea, in ters at the right time, so as to obtain the anguish and the solitude of fever; the grimace which shall make his pub- at Suli, in a shipwreck; at Malta, in lic shudder :

England, and in Italy, in the dangers " Who thundering comes on blackest steed,

of a duel, plots of insurrection, comWith slacken'd bit and hoof of speed !

mencements of sudden attacks, at sea, Approach, thou craven crouching slave, in arms, on horseback, having seen Say, is not this Thermopylæ ?"

assassination, wounds, agonies, close Wretched mannerisms, emphatic and to him, and that more than once. “I vulgar, imitated from Lucan and our am living here exposed to it (assassinmodern Lucans, but which produce ation) daily, for I have happened to their effect only on a first perusal, and make a powerful and unprincipled man on the common herd of readers. There my enemy; and I never sleep the worse is an infallible means of attracting a for it, or ride in less solitary places, mob, which is, to shout out loud; with because precaution is useless, and shipwrecks, sieges, murders, and com- one thinks of it as of a disease which bats, we shall always interest them; may or may not strike.” He spoke show them pirates, desperate adven- the truth ; no one ever held himself turers, these distorted or raging faces more erect and firm in danger. One will draw them out of their regular and day, near the Gulf of San Fiorenzo, monotonous existence; they will go his yacht was thrown on the coast ; to see them as they go to melodramas, the sea was terrific, and the rocks in and through the same instinct which sight; the passengers kissed their rcinduces them to read novels in penny saries, or fainted with horror; and the numbers. Add, by way of contrast, two captains being consulted, declared angelic women, tender and submissive, shipwreck inevitable. Well,” said beautiful as angels. Byron describes Lord Byron, "we are all born to die ; all this, and adds to these seductions I shall go with regret, but certainly not a bewitching scenery, oriental or pic- with fear.” And he took off his clothes, uresque adornments; old Alpine cas. begging the others to do the same, not des, the Mediterranean waves, the that they could save themselves amidst Retting suns of Greece, the whole in such waves; but “it is every man's high relief, with marked shadows and duty to endeavor to preserve the life

For example," as weeping Beauty's cheek God has given him ; so I advise you at Sorrow's tale.

all to strip : swimming, indeed, can be Here are verses like Pope, very beautiful of little use in these billows ; but as and false : * And havock loath so much the waste of time, children, when tired with crying, sink

She scarce had left an uncommitted crime. placidly to repose, we, when exhausted One hour, beheld him since the tide he with struggling, shall die the casistemm'd,

er. . .” He then sat down, folded his Disguised, discover'd, conquering, ta'en, condemn'd,

arms, very calm ; he even joked with A chief on land, an outlaw on the deep, Destroying, saving prison'd, and usloep!”

• Woore's Lik, iv. 346.

[ocr errors]

the captain, who was putting his dol- The being we so much did love; lars into his waistcoat pocket.

His empty chain above it leant.• The ship approached the rocks All

Then the youngest "faded" daily this time Byron was not seen to change countenance. A man thus tried and

“ With all the while a cheek whose blooms

Was as a mockery of the tomb, moulded can paint extreme situations Whose tints as gently sunk away and sentiments. After all, they are As a departing rainbow's ray.' never painted otherwise than by expe. But the pillars to which they are rience. The most inventive-Dante and Shakspeare-though quite differ

chained are too far apart,--the elder ent, yet do the same thing. However

cannot approach his dying younger high their genius rose, it always had brother; he listens and hears the fail. its feet on observation; and their most ing sighs; he cries for succor, and foolish, as well as their most splendid

none comes. He bursts his chain with

He pictures, never offered to the world one strong bound: all is over. more than an image of their age, or of takes that cold hand, and then, before their own heart. At most, they deduce ;

the motionless bɔdy, his senses are that is, having derived from two or lost, his thoughts arrested; he is like three features the inward qualities of a drowning man, who, after passing the man within themselves and of the through pangs of agony, lets himself men around them, they draw thence, sink down like a stone, and no longer by a sudden ratiocination of - which feels existence but by a complete petthey have no consciousness, the varied rifaction or horror. Here is another skein of actions and sentiments. They bound naked on a wild horse, rushing

brother of Childe Harold, Mazeppa, may be artists, but they are observers. They may invent, but they describe. over the steppes. He writhes, and his Their glory does not consist in the dis swollen limbs, cut by the cords, are play of a phantasmagoria, but in the bleeding. A whole day the course discovery of a truth. They are the continues, and behind him the wolves first to enter some unexplored provare howling. The night through he ince of humanity, which becomes their hears their long monotonous chase, domain, and thenceforth supports their and at the end his energy fails. name like an appanage. Byron found The earth gave way, the skies rollid his domain, which is that of sad and


I seem'd to sink upon the ground ; tender sentiments : it is a heath, and But err'd, for 1 was fastly bound. full of ruins; but he is at home there, My heart turn'd sick, my brain grew sore, and he is alone.

And throbb'd awhile, then beat no more; What an abode! And it is on this

The skies spun like a mighty wheel ;

I saw the trees like drunkards reel, desolation that he dwells. He muses And a slight flash sprang o'er my eyes, See the brothers of Childe Which saw no further: he who dies

Can die no more than then I died. Harold pass — the characters who

I felt the blackness come and go, people it.. One in his prison, chained And strove to wake; but could not make up with his two remaining brothers. My senses climb up from below: Their father and three others had


I felt as on a plank at sea, ished fighting, or were burnt for their

When all the waves that dash o'er thee,

At the same time upheave and whelm, faith. One by one, before the eyes of And hurl thee towards a desert realm.” 1 the eldest, the last two languish and {ade: a silent and slow agony amidst Shall. I enumera.e them all? Hugo, the damp darkness into which a beam Parisina, the Foscari, the Giaour, the of the sickly sun pierces through a

Corsair. His hero is always a man crevice. After the death of the first, striving with the worst anguish, face to the survivors “begged as a boon" that face with shipwreck, torture, death.he shall at least De buried on a spot the bitter death of his well-beloved,

his own painful and prolonged death, “whereon the day might shin2." The jailers

with remorse for his companion, “ Coldly laugh'd and laid him there.

* Byron's Works, X. The Prisoner of Chi lon, c. vii. 234.

+ Ibid. c. viü 335. The fat and turdess earth above

t Ibid. xi., Maxopac. xiii. 167.

on it.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »